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France: History and Literature: Free Web Sites

Use this guide to research topics in French history and literature.

Free Web Sites

This section is not in very good order.  After Gallica, which is the huge site of the French National Library, there are two alphabetic sequences, for which apologies. 

Gallica Digital Library.  Gallica is a database of some 70,000 French texts and 80,000 images created by the Bibliotheque Nationale de France, chosen from its own and other French collections. Contains literature, history, science, philosophy, law, economic and political science materials. Some 1250 of the works can be word searched within the texts.  You might wish to use its English language interface, here.

European Library The European Library webservice is a portal which offers access to the combined resources (books, magazines, journals.... - both digital and non-digital) of the 43 national libraries of Europe. It offers free searching and delivers digital objects - some free, some priced.

Europeana enables people to explore the digital resources of Europe's museums, libraries, archives and audio-visual collections. It promotes discovery and networking opportunities in a multilingual space where users can engage, share in and be inspired by the rich diversity of Europe's cultural and scientific heritage.

Ideas and inspiration can be found within the more than 14.6 million items on Europeana. These objects include:

  • Images - paintings, drawings, maps, photos and pictures of museum objects
  • Texts - books, newspapers, letters, diaries and archival papers
  • Sounds - music and spoken word from cylinders, tapes, discs and radio broadcasts
  • Videos - films, newsreels and TV broadcasts

Some items and topics are world famous, like Isaac Newton's book about the Laws of Motion, the drawings of Leonardo da Vinci, Johannes Vermeer's painting of the Girl With A Pearl Earring or objects about the Berlin Wall. Others are hidden treasures, waiting for you to discover them.

Around 1500 institutions have contributed to Europeana. Renowned names such as the British Library in London, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and the Louvre in Paris are featured alongside smaller organisations across Europe. Together, their assembled collections allow you to explore Europe's history from ancient times to the modern day.

Whether you find a celebrated work or a lesser known object, Europeana always connects you to the original source of the material so you can be sure of its authenticity.


ABU: La Bibliotheque Universelle


ABU maintains hyperlinked, searchable files of public-domain texts in the French language. Of the almost 300 texts from over 100 authors available as of May 2012, almost all are literary works; the exceptions are usually either political or philosophical (for example, the Déclaration des droits de l'homme et du citoyen, some Marx and Engels, some Leibniz), although there are also titles in history of science and other fields as well. (Updates vary)


Archives Charlie a Harvard

The attacks of January 7, 8 and 9 2015 against Charlie Hebdo (periodical's offices) and a kosher supermarket in Paris have started a vigorous debate on fundamental issues such as freedom of expression, relation between state, religion and society, respect for other beliefs and perspectives than our own, inequalities, and the disenfranchisement of individuals and communities. Goal is to preserve manuscript, printed, digital, and ephemeral materials produced in the aftermath of these events. These materials will be archived by Harvard Library, and made available for research and education to scholars, teachers, and students.  Site available in both French and English.

Archives Nationales d'Outre Mer

As the heir to more than three centuries of history, the Archives Nationales d'Outre-Mer keeps two large collections with different administrative and archive pasts.  One is the archives of the Secretariats of State and the Ministries responsible for the French colonies from the XVIIth Century to the XXth Century.  The other is the archives transferred from the former colonies and Algeria when independence took place between 1954 and 1962, apart from the management archives which remained in the countries concerned. To these are added private and company archives relating to the Overseas Territories as well as a specialised library, map library and image library.  Use their Instruments de Rechercrecherchene (IREL-Anom) database.

ARLIMA The Literature Archive of the Middle Ages

Les Archives de Litterature du Moyen Age (ARLIMA) was founded in 2005 for students and researchers specializing in the Middle Ages because creation of a bibliography on an author or a text has become so much more arduous because of the proliferation of printed and electronic bibliographical tools at scholars' disposal.  It provides as full bibliographic coverage as possible on a large number of authors and texts from the Middle Ages, mainly French and Latin languages, but not excluding other Western European languages.  Not exhaustive.  Maybe not even completely accurate.  It is not a directory of internet sites, but of printed works, mostly.


This is a portal to collections documenting the cultural heritage of Brittany (France). Its search engine allows you to search across the digitized collections of several institutions.  Materials included: pictures and postcards, press archives, learned societies' bulletins, funds re academic research, oral heritage archives, audiovisual archives, museum collections, heritage and architectural inventories, iconography, maps, plans, manuscripts and other rare material.  It also offers thematic dossiers about Breton history, which can be discovered through a timeline or an interactive map. The interface is available in French, Breton and English (with some limitations).

CCFR Catalogue Collectif de France

National Union Catalog effort of the Bibliotheque Nationale de France.   Over 30 million documents.  Click on the A Propos link near top right of entry screen for a description of the contents, which are always being added to. 

Eurodocs: Primary Historical Documents from Western Europe

These links connect to Western European (mainly primary) historical documents that are transcribed, reproduced in facsimile, or translated. They shed light on key historical happenings within the respective countries (and within the broadest sense of political, economic, social, and cultural history). Covers medieval and Renaissance, Europe as a supranational region, as well as documents of individual countries. From Brigham Young University.


European History Primary Sources Provides links to free scholarly websites of digitized primary documents and online digital archives on European history.  Browse by country, language, time period, subject or type of source.


Europeana Migration


A sub-collection of Europeana, a website described above in this list.  Offers photographs, artworks, documents, sounds, videos and more on the topic of migration to, from and within Europe, gathered from museums, galleries, libraries, audio-visual archives and archives across Europe, in English or other European languages.  Funded by the European Commission and its member states. Co-funded by the European Union


Europeana Research [Newspapers]

Full Text from digitised newspapers from the National Library of France. 20 different titles are featured; the time span for each title can be seen on The European Library newspapers portal. The text for each title is available as a zip file. Each zip file is then organised by year, and the text (in the json format) is within each folder, along with issue level metadata. Title-level metadata is available in the root of the zip file for each issue.

Finding Translations

This is a research guide to help people find literature in translation in the M.S.U. Libraries.


French and Francophone Digital Humanities Projects

The goal of this LibGuide is to list Digital Humanities projects in French and Francophone Studies that are currently underway in the world.  This is a great way to discover what others are doing, what kind of projects are of interest, and also, to make new connections and foster new collaborations and partnerships.The different tabs show from where the projects originated, except for the Caribbean tab which highlights both projects designed by people in the Caribbean as well as projects about the Caribbean that originated from a different place. Made by the CIFNAL Collection Development Working Group, American librarians working with France/French collection building in academic libraries.

French Culture

 This site aims to provide Americans with resources on all aspects of French culture: literature, performing arts, film, television, higher education, grant programs, and French language.  Find out when/where French culture events happen, such as art exhibits, film showings, book signings, music festivals/performances.  Sections:  Books, film, TV and new media, visual and performing arts.  Interviews and video clips and links to French TV channels may be streamed online free of charge, even in the U.S. 

French Digital Diplomatic Archives

Provides access to several thousand digitized documents from the Ministry as well as documents from Gallica selected for their cultural and historical interest. Categories include diplomatic history, treaties, agreements and conventions, French mandates and protectorates, and official intergovernmental and foreign publications. It will be added to on a regular basis.  This site explains about it.

French Renaissance Paleography

Paleography is the history and study of handwriting. Old scripts can be very beautiful, but sometimes difficult to read. This site presents over 100 carefully selected French manuscripts written between 1300 and 1700, with tools for deciphering them and learning about their social, cultural, and institutional settings.You can also browse for manuscripts by region, date, and these broad topics: art and culture, economy, family, gender, government and politics, law, major events, notable people, or religion.  A project of the Newberry Library and the University of Toronto.

French Studies Web

French Studies Web provides annotated links to scholarly web resources and includes sites of particular interest to librarians specializing in Western Europe. It does not strive for exhaustiveness. Where possible, links to high-quality, scholarly meta-sites are given. This is part of WESSWEB, from the Western European Studies Section of the American Library Association.


H-France Professional Resources

H-France is the premier American, scholarly electronic discussion list about the history of France, offered by H-Net. Within their website is this page "Resources" which offers links to online history resources, maps, bibliographies and indexes, databases, dictionaries, search engines, some phone books, and guides to some cities, including Paris. There are also links to practical information: searching for lodging, government, libraries, museums, the Metro, trains, universities, the weather.


Historical Research in Europe

Historical Research in Europe attempts "to unite both web-based and printed resources about [Western] European libraries and archives in a single interactive database." Search by keyword, country, any one of 25 pre-defined subject groupings (such as World War II or immigration), subject terms, historical periods, type of archive (such as church or diplomatic), personal or family name, or broad historical topic. Search results lead either to guides to archival materials held in University of Wisconsin's library system (which M.S.U. Libraries may also own; check our online catalog) or to web sites of particular archival institutions. Done by University of Wisconsin under Barbara Walden's inspiration.


Indexes and Guides to Western European Periodicals

American Library Association, ACRL, Western European Studies Section created and maintains this guide. Its purpose is to list print and electronic indexes to European periodicals from the 17th Century to the mid-20th Century. This includes indexes to specific titles, periods, subjects, and geographic areas. In addition, it lists descriptive guides and online web sites that may contain useful information in the absence of an index. Indexes portion: Lists indexes and tables of contents alphabetically, by century. Includes web sites and hypertext archives with index. Guides portion: Lists bibliographic and historical guides to periodicals without indexes or tables of contents alphabetically, by century. Web sites portion: Links to online bibliographies and guides, as well as hypertext archives that do not provide an index. The guide itself is divided into two sections: one providing access to "comprehensive resources," covering several countries or languages; and one listing language specific resources: Danish, Dutch, English, Finnish, French, German, Icelandic, italian, Norwegian, Spanish, and Swedish. There is also an overall search function. While new electronic resources are starting to provide subject access to periodicals pre-1950, anyone searching for articles published on a specific topic in Western Europe during the early 20th, 19th, or even earlier centuries, will find this guide useful, because many of the electronic indexes are incomplete.


Internet Modern History Sourcebook

Collection of primary sources of historic documents from the early modern period to the present for both Europe and the Americas. Includes links to other sources of information on modern history and on the nature of historiography, and links to maps, images, and music.

Mai 68: A Library Research Guide

From University of California, Berkeley, by Claude Potts, a noted Western European Studies librarian.

Newberry French Revolutionary Collection Pamphlets

The Chicago, Illinois Newberry Library's French Revolution Collection consists of more than 30,000 pamphlets and more than 23,000 issues of 180 periodicals published between 1780 and 1810. The collection was acquired by the Newberry between 1957 and 1961 from Michel Bernstein, a book dealer in Paris. There are complete runs of well-known journals, as well as many rare and unknown publications. The collection represents the opinions of all the factions that opposed and defended the monarchy during the turbulent period between 1789-1799 and also contains innumerable ephemeral publications of the early Republic. While the majority of the pamphlets were printed in Paris by the Imprimerie nationale, there are also significant numbers of provincial publishers and fictitious imprints.

 Archives Portal Europe 

Archives Portal Europe provides access to information on archival material from different European countries as well as information on archival institutions throughout the continent.


Artists in Paris: Mapping the 18th Century Art World

Artists in Paris is an open-access digital humanities and art history project that maps hundreds of 18th-century artists' homes and studios. This website's database contains an entry for 471 artists. All of these artists were "members of the French Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture (Academie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture) between 1675 (when comprehensive address records began) and 1793 (when the Academy was disbanded during the French Revolution)." While it's possible to search by artist name, drawing on personal knowledge of French 18th-century painters and sculptors, there is a handy Guide section that explains how to get the most out of the resource. Perhaps the easiest way to start using Artists in Paris is to filter by year, which produces color-coded markers on the map indicating addresses where artists lived. The color of the marker indicates the type of artist, such as history painter, engraver, or landscapist. Clicking on the markers displays information about the corresponding artist.


Assemblee Nationale Francaise

Can be accessed in French, English, German, Italian, or Spanish. Contains French government documents at the national level. Free information. Register as an individual.


Bibliotheque et Archives Nationales du Quebec (BANQ)


Bibliotheque Mazarine


Mazarinum is the name of the digital collections of the Mazarine Library, Paris.  It contains 15th-19th century books, archival documents, illustrated materials, photographic materials, the original Encyclopedie of Diderot.  They have begun digitizing items from their collection, found here, also harvested by the digital sites Gallica and Europeana.


Bibliotheque Nationale de France


Bibliotheque Royale de Belgique


Bibliotheques Specialisees de la Ville de Paris Website of special libraries of Paris. Contains catalog of collections and full texts of various works: views of Paris, collection of wallpapers, embroidery patterns, fashion plates, two major atlases of Paris, documents of Louise Michel, Diary of John Grualt, 1639 atlas of the world, dust jackets of American illustrated pulp fiction of the 1920s and 1930s, digitized 78 rpm records.


 CIFNAL: Collaborative Initiative for French Language Collections

The goal is to promote and facilitate the cooperative exchange of ideas and resources between French and North American libraries. CIFNAL is under the aegis of the Global Resources Network of the Center for Research Libraries (CRL). M.S.U. Libraries is not a member of CIFNAL, specifically. The CIFNAL website offers links to some very good French resources.  They offer a database of academic institutions in the U.S. and Canada with strong French and Francophone collections called Finding French and Francophone Special Collections. Le Portail de la Culture From the French goverment ministry of Culture and Communication, this is a portal into to French national cultural collections and museums. Genealogy, history of arts, art images, online exhibits, video, photos, etc. Browse by various themes: archaeology, architecture, archives, maps, postcards, paintings, engravings, historic monuments, furnishings, overseas, prehistory, sculpture, theatre, voyages, and more.


Digital Librarian: a Librarian's Choice of the Best of the Web: French Literature

Maintained by Cortland, N.Y. librarian Margaret V. Cortland.


Encyclopedia of Diderot and d'Alembert.  Collaborative Translation Project

Offers English translation of the expansive-thirty-two volumes in total-Enlightenment period encyclopedia overseen by Denis Diderot and Jean le Rond d'Alembert. Users can browse and search translated articles in a number of ways, browse original illustration plates, explore related material, and more.


e rara

The platform for digitized rare books from Swiss libraries.  Almost 17,000 Swiss printed items. 15th-20th centuries.  Browse keywords, titles, authors, or search through  thematic collections on alchemy/magic/Kabbalah, anatomy, historical scientific literature, Swiss children's and young people's books, Vitruviana, birds, works of Rousseau, 18th-19th c. works printed in Ticino, works from Rheinau Monastery, 17th c. Italian prose and poetry, Fondo Giani, Library of the Naturforschende Gesellschaft Zurich, Bibliotheque des Pasteurs, 18th-19th c. Bernensia,  Limit by language, range of dates, publisher, place of publication, type of material (book, map, illustrated material, music print), holding library.


Electronic Text Collections in Western European Literature

Lists internet sources for literary texts in Western European languages other than English. Links are grouped by language. Within each language, collections from multiple sources are listed in order of size of the collection, followed by texts by individual authors arranged alphabetically by author. Brief annotations indicate the content of each site and any difficulties that might be encountered. Site includes texts in some ancient languages (Ancient Greek, Latin, Old Norse), languages found in Eastern Europe (Greek and Finnish), and less widely spoken languages (Galician, Provencal). Most links are to freely available sources on the internet (exception is ARTFL to which MSU subscribes and has its own entry in electronic resources list).


Epopee, Bibliographie Comparatiste Site

Contains a bibliography on the evolutionary epic (300 titles of books and articles since 1997 in several languages) for the study of the modern and contemporary epic and more.


French Book Trade in Enlightenment Europe

This project uses database technology to map the French book trade across late-Enlightenment Europe, between 1769 and 1794.  It charts best-selling texts and authors; reading tastes across Europe; changing patterns of demand over time; and networks of exchange in the print-trade. The project tracks the movement of around 400,000 copies of 4,000 books across Europe.  It details, where possible, the exact editions of these works, the routes by which they travelled and the locations of the clients that bought or sold them.


French Connection This is a site offering links to French and Francophone cultural resources, including: history, current events, and media; language and literature; art and culture; libraries; e-texts; government information; publishing; tourism; industry and trade; education. Also links to gateways and search engines.


French Revolution Digital Archive
FRDAis a multi-year collaboration of the Stanford University Libraries and the Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF) to produce a digital version of the key research sources of the French Revolution and make them available to the international scholarly community. The archive is based around two main resources, the Archives parlementaires and a vast corpus of images first brought together in 1989 and known as the Images de la Revolution française.


Literary Tour de France

Web site being developed by Robert Darnton, prominent American professor of French history and recently retired Director of Libraries of Harvard University.  "By browsing through [this site on the history of the book in pre-revolutionary France], readers can create a trail of their own through the documents while pursuing topics that interest them. They also can consult many of the essays I have written about the STN, book history, and related issues in the general fields of cultural history and the social history of ideas. And if they would like to follow a path already prepared for them, they can click through the following material [already digitized below] in an order that constitutes a literary tour de France."  The STN is "the archives of the Société typographique de Neuchâtel (STN), a Swiss publishing house across the border from the Franche Comté, which did a huge wholesale trade everywhere in the kingdom [of France] while producing its own editions."


Making of Charlemagne's Europe (MCE)

Offers a single, unified database framework for the extraction of prosopographical and socio-economic data found in early medieval legal documents. Legal documents contain an extraordinary wealth of information for the political, social and economic history of this period. The aim of this project is to offer a common framework capable of extracting and comparing the data contained within legal documents, while still, at the same time, allowing users to identify and control for the most significant distortions typically affecting this material (such as modes of transmission, e.g. via an original or a later copy). The second aim is to apply this framework to legal documents surviving from the reign of Charlemagne (25 September 768 to 28 January 814 AD). Over four thousand charters survive from the reign of Charlemagne; the database includes almost a thousand of them, selected for maximum variety in types of repository, modes of transmission, geographical area, recipients and issuers, etc.

Mandragore, Base du Manuscrits Enlumines de la BNF

Map of Lexical Distances Between Europe's Languages

Presents an alternate view of European cultures: rather than geographic and territorial borders defining the outlines of Western Europe, the Indo-European language families are used to depict relationships and to rethink the way we view proximity.

Mapping Gothic France

France and Great Britain are home to a number of striking examples of gothic architecture built in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, including cathedrals and castles. On this website, created by Columbia University art historian and archeology scholar Stephen Murray and Vassar College art professor Andrew Tallon, visitors can explore photographs of these structures and learn more about the history of this architecture. On The Main Map, visitors can explore annotated photographs of structures by geographic pin. Many of these pins included multiple photographs, allowing visitors to examine the exterior and interior of structures in great deal from their own computer. The majority of structures are located in modern France, but this collection also includes a large number of buildings in the United Kingdom. Another way to experience the site is via The Historical Maps and Timeline section, which features an animated map outlining the intersections between the history of France and the construction of these buildings. Meanwhile, visitors with a passion for architecture will enjoy the Comparison feature, which allows visitors to layer a variety of exterior and interior architectural features on different structures. A work in progress, the Stories and Essays section provides more information about Gothic architecture as well as the history of France. This web site is the public face of the Fondation Napoleon, a charitable organization headquartered in Paris that is devoted to the preservation and study of the first and second Napoleonic empires, 1804-1815 and 1852-1870. This was a time of dramatic political, social, and cultural upheaval and transition in Europe. This portal provides access in French and in English to primary, secondary, and tertiary source material, including some 5,000 digitized texts and images, along with teaching tools, a newsletter, magazine, and a variety of other supplementary material.

OAIster, from OCLC

Over 1500 organizations with OAI-compliant repositories contribute over 30 million records to this database which uses the OCLC WorldCat interface.  Has finding aids for archival collections.

Paris: Life and Luxury allows one to travel to 18th-century Paris via this Getty Museum exhibit.  Material culture objects from the upper classes at this time.



Offers a selection of digitized documents from the collection of precious books, published between the 15th and 18th centuries, and kept in the library of the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne.  This collection illustrates the fields of the history and philosophy of science, and more specifically the scientific works by Swiss authors. Thus, thousands of images from books that have entered the public domain (maps, plans, old prints, manuscripts and incunabula) are directly accessible and downloadable.




Website launched by Bibliotheque Nationale de France.  Makes available over 15 million newspaper articles from three centuries.  Search in broad categories: arts, catastrophes, conflicts/international relations, economics, education, justice, media, politics, religion, health, sciences, society, sports/leisure. 

Revue des Deux Mondes

First published in 1829, with the objective of establishing a cultural, economic, and political bridge between France and the United States. Truly multidisciplinary, the Revue covers all major subjects affecting our societies and is one of the primary agents of intercultural dialogue and debate between the New and Old Worlds, but also the North and South, the East and West. Providing commentary and analysis on world events from a mostly French perspective, the journal has, over the years, accumulated an impressive list of contributors. The Revue is one of the few publications that may rightly claim to be a cultural institution. Years from 1829 are available here and on the Gallica website. It is possible to do a search here for authors, titles, keywords, etc. BUT, BEWARE. HERE you need to pay to read the whole article! Best to do your search here, find your citations, and then look up the journal in the M.S.U. Libraries' online catalog and use an edition digitized in the Hathi Trust project.


Share ILL: Gateways and Union Catalogs--France

Offers quick links to major French online catalog websites.  Can be used by both scholars and interlibrary loan librarians.


Siege and Commune of Paris, 1870-1871

  This site contains links to over 1200 digitized photographs and images recorded during the Siege and Commune of Paris cir.1871. In addition to the images in this set, the Library's Siege & Commune Collection contains 1500 caricatures, 68 newspapers in hard-copy and film, hundreds of books and pamphlets and about 1000 posters. Additions are made regularly. The originals are located in the Charles Deering McCormick of Special Collections in the Deering Library at Northwestern University.


Super-Enlightenment, a  Digital Collection of the Stanford University Libraries

The Super-Enlightenment database contains thirty-six texts, written in French between 1716 and 1835 (for a full list, click on texts in any menu). Some of these were widely read in their time; others are more emblematic of the shadowy demi-monde of eighteenth-century intellectual intrigue. Taken as a corpus, they offer a fair representation of the disparate and unorthodox interests of the age.


USTC, Universal Short Title Catalogue

A collective database of books published in Europe between the invention of printing and the end of the 16th-Century.  Hosted by University of St. Andrews.  Began as a project to survey French religious books for studying the Reformation.  Also has entries for Catholic books and vernacular imprints to establish how religious books fit into the economy of print.  France was a main center of European printing.  They surveyed the holdings of 300 French libraries, municipal and academic, both.  Also went to great world libraries outside France, which compose 30% of the database.  They have added holdings from Iberian libraries and libraries in the Low Countries. Entries give brief bibliographical details.


VERSPERA Research Project, Digitisation and Modelling of the Plans Relating to Versailles Under the Ancien Regime

The VERSPERA research project, Digitisation and modelling of the plans relating to Versailles under the Ancien Régime, aims to make the plans of the Versailles Estate under the Ancien Régime available to the public and to restore some of the missing parts through 3D modelling.  Read about it; see images.



Organized in 1900 Le Vieux-Papier society has over 500 member organizations.  Their concern is with the documents printed on paper about daily life from the 15th century onwards, such as popular engraving, publicity materials, transportation schedules, games, notices, religious images, more.  Mouse over the "Qui Sommes Nous" tab near top left.  Click on "Liens Amis"; there is a list of links to other web sites.


World Digital Library

The World Digital Library (WDL) is a project of the U.S. Library of Congress, carried out with the support of the United Nations Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization (UNESCO), and in cooperation with libraries, archives, museums, educational institutions, and international organizations from around the world.  It makes available on the Internet, free of charge and in multilingual format, significant primary materials from all countries and cultures.  Its goals are to promote international and intercultural understanding; expand the volume and variety of cultural content on the Internet; provide resources for educators, scholars, and general audiences; build capacity in partner institutions to narrow the digital divide within and between countries.


World War One

From the British Library.  Brings together material from various institutions across Europe about Europe in WWI.  Over 500 items, including photos, videos, diaries, books, cartoons, and other types of materials the document the ways Europeans experienced the war on both sides.  Can explore by theme, search using keywords, and filter by year, language, creator, format.  Also contains secondary articles by historical experts, interviews, and teaching resources,  with lesson plans for middle/high school. 




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